Today, the Congressional Budget Office released a brief report on the Senate immigration bill, S. 744. The CBO report of a few weeks ago was interpreted in many places as damaging to the Senate’s bill because it found that the original bill would reduce illegal immigration by only 25 percent, which radically undermined the premise of the legislation as put forward by Senators Rubio and Schumer (that this bill would end illegal immigration). Corker-Hoeven was meant to be an antidote to this problem, but the latest CBO missive suggests that it is at best an incomplete solution.
The CBO says that S. 744 would reduce illegal immigration a bit more than it did before, but it would not come close to ending it.
For the Senate-passed version of S. 744, the CBO estimates that the net inflow would be reduced by between one-third and one-half compared with the projected net inflow under current law. That effect would not be immediate, as it would take several years before DHS could hire the full number of Border Patrol agents called for in the act.
Consequently, the CBO estimates that the number of unauthorized residents in 2023 would be lower by about 800,000 than estimated for S. 744 as reported by the Judiciary Committee. Under the committee-approved version of S. 744, the net increase in the U.S. population would be 10.4 million people, the CBO estimates. Under the Senate-approved version of S. 744, the net increase would be about 9.6 million people.
Cutting illegal immigration by between 33 percent and 50 percent (a fairly big range) is not exactly a passing grade. According to one estimate, the CBO’s original report on S. 744 suggested that, ten years from the bill’s passage, there could be 8.3 million illegal immigrants in the US. This new CBO report suggests that S. 744 would now shave that number down to 7.5 million illegal immigrants. Senator Rubio said last month that “none of us wants to be here five years from now facing 5 million illegal immigrants more, another wave of illegal immigration,” but under even the newly amended bill, there could easily be over 7 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. by 2023.
One of the major limitations of Corker-Hoeven is that it fixates on border security, but many illegal immigrants are visa-overstayers (a demographic that could grow under the guest-worker programs of the bill). Interior enforcement would seem very important for reducing illegal immigration. Some GOP leaders have suggested trading immediate legalization for the promise of future enforcement, but this report suggests that even such future enforcement might not be sufficient, assuming that enforcement happens at all. The administration’s decision to delay the Obamacare employer mandate reminds us that future enforcement strategies might also be delayed — perhaps indefinitely.